Political Science, Department of


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A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Political Science, Under the Supervision of Professor Kevin B. Smith. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2012

Copyright (c) 2012 Amanda Balzer


The political and religious are demonstrably intertwined in American politics and within the preferences of individual citizens. This dissertation has attempted to examine possible theoretical reasons for the overlap and sources of development of these belief systems within individuals and across generations. In sum, different Moral Foundations are associated with different preferences for organizing society and approaching religion; grandparents, parents and children share many political and religious beliefs, though not all Moral Foundations; and genetics influence part of the variance on religious and political preferences and part of their overlap is due to a shared genetic path. Most scholarship exploring the nature of religious and political beliefs divide the world into political liberals and conservatives or religious modernists and traditionalists, but this dissertation suggests there may be an even broader orientation that shapes the lens through which individuals view the world. Whether this orientation is socialized, heritable or a combination of both, understanding that moral decisions and political and religious preferences shape and are shaped by this orientation may help explain the “culture wars” in American society (Hunter 1991). Investigating this psychology behind political and religious ideologies will provide better insight into the reasons people believe and act the way they do as well as understanding the stability of beliefs across generations and, therefore, of the relative intractability of people’s positions on controversial issues.

Adviser: Kevin B. Smith